If your child has recently been diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may be wondering how to navigate a new-to-you world. Things as simple as selecting a preschool, babysitter, or pediatric medical practice can now seem nearly insurmountable. And often, selecting the right pediatrician can be a challenge even for parents whose children aren't on the spectrum. Read on for some of the factors you'll want to consider—and the approaches you'll want to take—when selecting a pediatrician for your child.
Look for Providers Recommended by National and Local ASD Organizations
There are quite a few local, regional, and national organizations devoted to providing resources and support to parents of children on the spectrum. Many of these organizations maintain lists of "ASD-approved" providers, including pediatricians. These pediatricians may specifically advertise that they work with children with ASD or are simply placed on the list due to word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied patients.
ASD-friendly pediatricians may offer special hours for their ASD patients, dimming lights and reducing outside noise so as to make the office a more calming environment for easily-overstimulated children. Others may cater their entire practice to children with ASD, offering segregated waiting rooms or sensory toys that allow children to explore at their own pace. Doctors, nurses, and other staff members may receive special training in handling various medical procedures (like weight and height measurements, vision testing, and even vaccines) for children who often react strongly to being touched by strangers.
Ask Other ASD Parents for Recommendations
If local and national organizations don't have any recommended pediatricians in your area, you may want to ask around among other ASD parents or acquaintances. Many may have positive things to say about certain pediatricians and practices, giving you a good starting point for further research and investigation. Many pediatricians' offices will be happy to converse with you by phone or email about their common practices, while some may let you visit the office alone for a "test run" of how visits may go once your child is in tow.
And even if asking around doesn't yield any "must have" recommendations, it can often be useful in letting you know what pediatricians or practices it's best to avoid. The last thing you want to do is engender a fear of the doctor's office in your child, so it's crucial that you do all you can to avoid any unpleasant experiences with less-than-understanding doctors, nurses, and support staff.
To learn more, reach out to clinics like Kitsap Children's Clinic LLP.